Manchester United’s Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic shoots from the penalty spot to score his team’s third goal during the UEFA Europa League Round of 32 first-leg football match between Manchester United and Saint-Etienne at Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, north-west England, on February 16, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Oli SCARFF
Saint-Etienne believe they are capable of reversing a Europa League first leg deficit against Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s Manchester United if they can add a dash of ‘madness’ to their game.
At 3-0 down from the Old Trafford first leg all scored by nemesis Ibrahimovic, few are betting on a French revival in Wednesday’s last 32 second leg at the club’s Geoffroy-Guichard stadium.
But club President Bernard Caïazzo told AFP in an exclusive interview that a win was possible “if we can inject a bit of madness” into the match.
“The result from the first leg was very heavy because we did not put away our chances and there was some odd refereeing going on, a bit like if Zlatan Ibrahimovic himself was the referee,” he said.
“But this time, unlike in the first leg where the players were a bit tense and made finishing errors, we have nothing to lose.”
“Football can offer incredible surprises,” he said. “Putting a bit of madness into our game means nothing is impossible.”
He said the team needs to rediscover the spirit of the 1974 European Cup, predecessor of the Champions League, when the side went 4-1 down to Hadjuk Split in the away leg and beat them 5-1 after extra time on home turf. Saint-Etienne went on to reach the semi-finals where they were beaten by eventual champions Bayern Munich.
Saint-Etienne striker Romain Hamouma said the side had to avoid an obsession with Ibrahimovic, the former Paris Saint-Germain star who has now scored 17 goals all told against Saint-Etienne.
“His record against us is exceptional,” he said “He is a great player but we cannot let ourselves become obsessed by one player alone.”
Saint-Etienne are still upset over the penalty awarded to Ibrahimovic in the closing minutes of the Manchester leg after he slumped to his knees in the box following a challenge from behind, allowing him to score his first hat-trick for United.
“As soon as the ‘great’ one falls, the referee feels he has to whistle,” added Hamouma.
He said that Saint-Etienne had found weaknesses in Manchester United but were not able to exploit them because of poor finishing.
“This time we have to make no mistake, and that will be the key.”
Coach Christophe Galtier said that if his players kept their cool the chances would come their way.